The Apocalyptic Trope in Marsh

In Marsh’s writing, there is evidence of the apocalyptic trope that Garrard discusses. As Marsh discusses the utter destruction that humans cause the trope really becomes evident. “When the forest is gone, the great reservoir of moisture stored up in its vegetable mould is evaporated, and returns only in deluges of rain to wash away the parched dust into which that mould has been converted,” (43). Marsh’s quotation shows how man can take the lush environment of a forest, and turn it into a desolate, barren, wasteland. As I analyze this quote, I continually refer back to what Garrard writes about “apocalypticism”, “Each generation of humans can beget a still larger next generation, whereas increases in agricultural production by cultivation of new ground can be achieved only incrementally:” (94). The problem with creating larger generations is the continual destruction we cause to the environment. Marsh writes, “But man is everywhere a disturbing agent,” (34). Because man is a destructive agent, the apocalyptic trope is apparent. Moreover, this is a successful strategy because it allows for multiple perspectives of analysis of a text. We can argue the Christian perspective of the apocalyptic trope because of the signs of the apocalypse (88). In the Christian mindset, the apocalypse is unavoidable. So, if we take that mindset and apply it to the writing of Marsh we can see how the destruction of the Earth can point towards a coming end. One reoccurring problem in Marsh’s writing is how much damage man has done, and how difficult it will be to restore nature, if that is even possible.
The apocalyptic trope can be deemed a little depressing, but it stands to serve a purpose. Marsh is capable of writing about the “elephant in the room” that many people refuse to discuss. He wants readers to understand that we are the potential cause of the apocalypse and if we continue on this path, the future generations will not have to ability to enjoy the earth.

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Marsh, George P. The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Ch./Art: Destructiveness of Man; Instability of AMerican Life p. 33-55, 396-397. pub Arno Press 1970.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by yribaf on November 1, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I agree with your analysis. The apocalyptic trope can be seen throughout Marsh’s writing in reference to the encroachment of civilization. I found this quote to illuminate Marsh’s message, “But with stationary life, or at latest with the pastoral state, man at once commences an almost indiscriminate warfare upon all the forms of animal and vegetable existence around him, and as he advances in civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spontaneous product of the soil he occupies” (41). One point in his text that stuck out to me was how Marsh considers the model of civilization we live in today and man to be inseparable, which I feel is far from the truth. Man is not a plague or an apocalypse upon the earth so much as the system of ideas we are operating through have been the cause of the destruction. We need to take a step back and think about what we’re doing rather than continue on with business as usual. Marsh paints a vivid picture of what is causing this destruction, now we just have to change it. We have the ability at any time to change our ways We are not defined by one world view. We have the power to create ourselves anew anytime we choose to. Our problem is that we choose not to.

    Marsh, George P. The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Ch./Art: Destructiveness of Man; Instability of AMerican Life p. 33-55, 396-397. pub Arno Press 1970.

  2. Posted by rebsheppard on November 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    While I agree with your analysis of human destruction of the Earth in Marsh’s writings as indicative of the presence of apocalyptic undertones, I disagree with your claim that Marsh’s brand of apocalypse relates to the Christian apocalypse as outlined in the Garrard chapter. In his section on “Apocalypse and Millenium” (relating to the Christian conception of apocalypse), Garrard notes that Christian apocalytic characterizations tend to include elements of paranoia and violence.

    Instead of emphasizing these elements, Marsh writes off man’s destruction of the environment to inevitable “characteristic imperfections” in his essay “Instability of American Life.” He suggests that these imperfections can be corrected and improved, and does not imply that the world will have to end violently.

  3. Posted by lpeake on November 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I also do not agree that Marsh’s writing really strikes any resemblance towards the Christian idea of apocalypse. He solely focuses on man’s destruction, and there is not really any mention of God’s doing in this, or in the end of times in a religious sense. He pretty explicitly states that this is all man’s doing when he says “the earth is fast becoming an unfit home for it’s noblest inhabitant, and another era of equal human crime…would reduce it to such a condition of impoverished productiveness…as to threaten the deprevation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species” (Marsh 43-44).

    Marsh, George P. The Earth as Modified by Human Action. Ch./Art: Destructiveness of Man; Instability of American Life p. 33-55, 396-397. Pub. Arno Press 1970

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